What Are You Scared Of? Positive Vibes Series: Build Courage

Get up and show oomph! Be bold, be confident, thread your way through what people think of you, the obstacles, and everything that stirs up a weakness. Gird up your loins and get rid of your doubts and uncertainties.

Sounds familiar? Well, often, the voices in our head are loud enough to nudge us to take action. Still, we turn the volume down and list all the things that could go wrong and all the possible sufferings that can happen because we are afraid.

Aristotle (philosopher 384-322 B.C.) defines “fear as pain or disturbance due to a mental picture of some destructive or painful evil in the future.” Even though he indicates that wickedness and stupidity are evils, but they do not frighten us. Or we are not troubled by things that are a very long way off, such as death. What makes us anxious and fearful is when things have the power to harm and cause significant pain.

Fear is seen as an evolutionary necessity that can help notify a person whether they should proceed in their current direction or find another course to increase the likelihood of survival (Cannon, 1914; Ohman & Mineka, 2001). With this in mind, living a braver life is not to act naively, but to break down those potential problems and build a ladder to face the fears.

For instance, feeling anxious about air turbulence when flying is normal but refusing to travel is a debilitating and irrational fear. What constitutes courage is that you voluntarily take action to accomplish your goals when you have identified the potential problems. Being alert and being fully conscious that things might go wrong is to build the capacity to become braver in the face of challenges and setbacks.

In contrast to existing ideas that tell us to keep away from stress, you can leverage your anxiety and stress by rehearsing the tension and fear. Physical challenging experiences, contests, adventure activities are all character-forming pursuits that develop courage. Taking cold showers in the morning, a ritual that activates stress hormones which makes you think clearly, to engage in high-intensity workouts such as cycling, rock climbing, or running that help with your general health or intermittent fasting, are techniques based on the Stoic philosophy of self-denial that builds resilience against everyday stressors.

Now, in highly uncertain situations, evidently, you have no real control. By adopting a mindset that the only thing you have control over is your response, which is fostered by your values and attitudes towards life, you can transform the uncontrollable to manageable.

As Epictetus said: A Stoic “sage” never finds life intolerable, but sees in every challenge as an opportunity to test and improve oneself:

You should look to the faculties that you have, and say as you behold them, ‘Bring on me now, O Zeus, whatever difficulties you will, for I have the means and the resources granted to me by yourself to bring honour to myself through whatever may come to pass.’ (TD, Book One, Ch. 6, p. 18).

Featured image by Igor Morski

Break The Habit of Instant Gratification With Fulfilment – Positive Vibe Series

“I want it, and I want it now,” sounds familiar? Needless to say that it is tough to resist the badly behaving inner voice, which demands an instant reward. Like that piece of magnetic chocolate in the cupboard that somehow telepathically stimulates your tastes buds or browsing aimlessly the social media to get an update on your imaginary friends. Of course, not being able to resist comes with a bold headline, featured as “the lack of purpose and meaning.” 

Sara Shakeel
Sara Shakeel

While the previous statement is a significant blockage, brain chemistry is enormously responsible for reinforcing the unproductive feeling, such as instant gratification. Once you experience joy, your brain is exposed to dopamine, and deliberately the brain encourages you to continue doing what made you feel good. This is called the dopamine reward circuit, which involves several parts of the brain and fortifies good feelings. Hence, unaware of the joy’s source, anything that triggers the gratification releases the chemicals, and the brain perceives it as a pleasure source. 

Sara Shakeel
Sara Shakeel

Now that you know the brain’s basic physiology’s reward system, the next step is to consciously bridge the way for your present self to reach your future self by taking advantage of the feel-good chemicals ferrying in your neural pathways. Having said that, your goals and your future self need not only a vision board but, most notably, a philosophical vision to overcome procrastination or curb instant gratification. That vision, or you may call it inspiration, must be ingrained deep into your values and aligned with your temperament.

  • Make a list of your goals, your resources, your talents, your shortcomings, and your inadequacies. Don’t be shy jot down all the self-descriptive adjectives to see what you need to improve on and what you could solidly leverage to reach your aspirations.
  • Once you have the list in front of you, start an inner-dialogue and try to convince your present self why your goals are important.
  • Attach meaning to your goals by re-examining your intentions. At this stage, the philosophical vision becomes crystal clear.
  • Choose the most challenging goal. Why? Since you have to work super hard to reach it. As Pluto said: “Do one thing and do it well.”
  • In full awareness, accept that life is full of agony, traumas, sufferings, and delays.
  • Tap into your higher intelligence to embrace the benefits of delayed gratification. As humans, we can exert self-control. Make use of it, consider your promise to your future self, know your “why,” and avoid temptations.
  • Every day remind yourself of your intended goal so that you stay on course.
  • Be consistent, even if you feel miserable, put as much effort as possible since a fraction of the required work is better than none.

Staying motivated is not an easy task, so don’t wallow on it if you slip up. It happens, we all struggle, rather than giving in to your impulses again and falling into a vicious cycle, the best way out is to know that new habits take time. With patience, you can put your abilities to work to reach your goals.

Explore Your Ego – Positive Vibes Series

It would be helpful if every time you act upon your impulsive ego, a holographic screen appears in front of your eyes, which would shed light on “why” and outlines the motive! Or, perhaps, you go through an out of body experience to watch how you are entrapped in heedless and primitive impulses, which impel you to be helpless and act irrationally. Possibly, in the future, with the help of technology, you will be able to materialize such visual awareness. Till then, you might as well resort to certain practices that will push you to another level of existence, far beyond hopeless confusion.

First of all, let’s reflect on the sense of ego; whether delving into Eastern philosophy or psychoanalysis, both recognize that uncontrolled and impulsive ego will lead to suffering. 

Moving through different stages of ego to become the best version of yourself is not an easy path. The truth is that if you are lucky, life will sweep you through nasty havoc that will wound your self-identity and crush your image. A breakdown that can lead to a breakthrough by feeding the ideal self. Now, rising from the ashes is to take responsibility for your wellbeing. It starts with realizing that your thoughts are tainted by subjectivity and emotions since your mind has found security in the sense of belonging to the wrong structures, misinterpreted values, and egocentric pursuits.

While you are climbing up the spiral staircase of your spiritual evolution, I suggest you observe and question your motives, your triggers, contradictions, and practice the following transformational self-help:

  • Gain clarity by self-reflection and self-criticism – question your goal; if you feel uneasy about your reactions, cross-examine yourself to align your intent to your essence. Self-analysis is not about beating up oneself or agonizing but to understand the triggers, your role in the event, and blowing away the pollution so that the image of your intentions becomes sharp and transparent. The focus should be on you and not others.
  •  See yourself from another perspective – use abstract thinking to match your motives to your best possible self. That entails imagining your future “Self” in unpleasant circumstances only when channeling your energy to shield your best version. By setting unwavering rules to be of service to all, however, is possible and live as a human, your future “Self” releases toxic struggles and replace the void with contentment.
  • Question the expectations – step back and reassess your approach and your expectations and how they connect to the problem. By re-evaluating the expectations, you will recognize the difference whether they are conventional & reactionary or wise and tolerant.

Remember, you cannot fill the bowl with water if it is turned upside down. To be fully alive is to be well-disposed to “Self” and others. The key is to question your motives every time the destructive “Self”/ “ego” appears. Taking a volunteering leap to an inspired “Self” means using your knowledge, patiently, and for good. Have grit, as the journey is bumpy, and evidently, the spiral staircase will not get more comfortable. You will fall back a few steps, and you will be aware of your limitations. However, regardless of the hardships, this time, with conviction and a humbled “ego,” you know how to get up quickly and how to wipe up the dust. Finally, as you go further, you realize that gratitude and generosity are your mental tools to serve and use your power to benefit others so that you act like an intelligent being.

Featured image by Tom Roberts

Work With Your Strengths To Experience The State Of Flow – Positive Vibes Series

Clearly, it is rewarding to work with your strengths, yet, the question is, how do you recognize your strengths? When it comes to assessing what you are good at, the understanding can become fuzzy. At this stage, you are at risk of underperforming or be conceited, which is different from being self-confident. Consequently, this state of confusion brings about indecisiveness, which is useful if you tend to it. How? Well:

  • Uncertainties and doubts raise questions
  • You will start filling self-analysis exercises
  • Spotting patterns that suggest your forte
  • You reach out to pragmatic family, friends, and colleagues to seek feedback
  • Taking note of what you have learned, you draw a self-portrait and create an action plan to make effective use of your strengths.

Notably, the activity should also include identifying your weaknesses. Upon reflection, recognizing your imperfections and improving on indeed become one of your most vital strengths. Make sure that this self-awareness inspires you and creates a commitment to self-improvement. However, the problem arises if you spend your energy trying to improve your weakness rather than exploring and practicing your strengths once you have uncovered them. J.K Rowling focused solely on her creative mind and writing skills instead of improving her lack of organizational skills. In an interview, she said: “I am one of the most disorganized people in the world and, as I later proved, the worst secretary ever.” For instance, in a sport setting, a soccer coach spots the core strength and ensures that the player is placed in a position to accentuate its power.

It is a known fact that when you use your strengths, you will be happier. The evidence lies in extensive research based on positive psychology interventions. The idea that brings your focus on using your “signature strengths” in a new way. A treatment method or “intentional activities aim to cultivate positive feelings, behaviors, or cognitions” (Sin and Lyubomirsky, 2009, p. 468). Hence, if you aim to progress while maintaining and boosting your mental state’s well-being, learn to leverage your strengths to reach your goals. And remember strength is characterized as a trait that:

  • Energizes you
  • Makes you stronger
  • Makes you thrive
  • It engages you
  • Fulfills you
  • Notably, it leads you to be in the zone or a flow state – a mental state that keeps you fully involved and feels with joy so that you are entirely absorbed in the activity.
Jean Michel Bihorel

Featured image by Bruno Birkhofer Photography 

Smile, Laugh, Hug, Expect Good Sensibly & Be Kind – Positive Vibes Series

Here’s the shocking truth: very straightforward behaviors such as a smile, hug, and laughter are the fastest way to boost positive emotions, although, there is this huge BUT:  if you don’t feel the sensation do not force it.

Maurizio Cattelan

Nothing is worse than a hypocritical and soul scratching forced laughter that stems from bitterness, resentment, and sheer Janus-faced intention.  It is healthier to be expressive of your true emotions than masking your low spirits by a pretense that “I am a happy jolly person.” Obviously, at times, treating yourself to a necessary smile, laughter or a hug to inspire and encourage yourself or others to keep going is sensible and productive.

Nobody argues that hugging and laughing calm the nervous system, lowers your blood pressure, your stress hormone and positively increases your social connections. However, you should push yourself to aim high by taking conscious decisions to feel good inside. Sometimes, we are confronted with situations where something or someone has made us uncomfortable or annoyed. A fake smile is not the remedy but as Rene Descartes remarked: “Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it.”

Salvador Dali

Elevating your soul is not an easy task. How can you control your agitation? The way forward is to align your soul with gratitude, understanding and questioning your motive as well as others. No matter the intentions, being thick skin is not to put up with rude and unkind criticism. Of course, mastering such an outlook in life takes courage, as a very good friend of mine advised, either let it go and smile or confront it by keeping your tone light.  Like a feather, the feeling takes you to cloud nine, where you feel at ease, where your boundaries are outlined and expect good sensibly with a smile.

Naturally, not every day you can be forgiving, understanding, or want to hug or laugh, the road to self-growth is difficult but remember it is worth every step of the way. As long as you are present in your own life and manage difficult emotions like frustration, anger, and disappointment appropriately, you are on the right path. Occasionally, you feel enraged or sad, do not stifle it and let go of self-judgment. You should accept that being vulnerable is part of being human and maybe along the way, you have tied your self-esteem on things and other people to the extent that might bring the worse in you. It is healthy to pull back, replenish and learn to smile, laugh and hug so that next time they will spare your anxiety.

There is another rule when you are at odds and lack the capacity to express with civility, the ideal is to refuel by tapping into your empathy reserve and re-align your behavior in ways that reinforces your generous, gracious and thoughtful intentions. And what better ways to swell kindness and your noble motives but with a smile, a hug, laughter, and kindness.

Forgive – Positive Vibes Series

Forgiveness happens when you no longer feel angry, resentful towards someone or wish to punish them. Forgiveness does not happen overnight. It feels like stepping into a dark empty space, leaving behind the nyctophobia mind at the door. Overwhelmed with anxiety, you move hesitantly, feeling powerless over your fear of the unknown. Your racing heart warns you of the prominent threats. The risk of being humiliated, taken for a sucker, and asking yourself thousands of times over, why you let those rotten-minded people off the hook?

The simple answer is: You want peace and growth. You do not want inflammation in your body. You do not want to suffer anxiety or depression. “If hope gives you wings, forgiveness will often be what you will need to get off the ground.” The lingering idea of revenge is tasty but just like wasabi, it gets you an endorphin rush from the pain and after a second, oops! it dissolves. Yes, sometimes things do not make sense, you try to teach the wrongdoers a lesson by mirroring back or calling out someone for acting shockingly bad towards you, albeit their lack of intelligence, they eclipse their misery and at times bitterness with innocence! 

You want to release the negativity, but keep in mind the progression is slow, you want to blow away the anger but it cannot pass through the first line of defense meshed around you by your ego. You will go two steps forward and then five steps back. Reluctantly you pick yourself up knowing well that the only way is to stand on your feet and continue on the path of self-care with humility.

Digital Artist – Alper Yemenicigil

How? Well, you can choose to practice the five-step REACH model developed by Everett Worthington:

  • Recall – The first step is to objectively recall the misdeed. Do not scrutinize with negativity light nor allow victimhood behavior to take over your entire existence. In fact, wallowing in self-pity makes you perceive the world and people around you through a paranoid mental lens. While it is important to acknowledge that you have suffered but you won’t be able to forgive and go forward in life unless you step out of the victim role. Instead of assigning blame, take responsibility. Stop obsessing about what-ifs and rise above the primitive ego.
  • Empathize – Next, make the effort to put aside your biases and try to understand the other person’s way of thinking and reasoning. Make sure that you do not underplay the wrong but only grasp their inner-struggles, their intentions or mindset.
  • Altruism – Subsequently, consider forgiveness as an altruistic gift. Look back on a time that you transgressed and you were forgiven.
  • Commit – Kindly, commit yourself to forgive. Work on your commitment. Write your wounds in a journal or make the effort to practicing small acts of forgiveness. For instance when someone cuts you off in traffic, do not take it personally, just let it slide.
  • Hold on – Finally, hold on to your forgiveness. This stage is difficult since something can trigger the memory and you are back to square one. Yes, you have been hurt, you have accepted what has transpired, analyzed yourself, learning from your mistakes, recognizing your faults and at this point see yourself as a survivor. It is not about pressing on the delete button but changing your reactions towards its memory.

Throughout the process, remove yourself from despicable situations. Surround yourself with good people. Well-intentioned individuals that take your hand and lift you up. People who will be happy if you succeed and empathize with your sadness. Immerse in laughter, positive activities and hone your social conscious to be useful. Re-connect with your inspired self. The one that seeks knowledge, the one that is creative, the one that hates stagnation. The one that blows out its anger to get as close to indifference towards the offenders, the one that is reluctant to live in regret of dwelling in the past and letting the present and future slip away. The one that is determined and the one that opens its heart to travel the arch from the bruised ego to feeling neutral and ultimately forgiveness.

Lastly, bear in mind that at times the perpetrators are ignorant and will never realize that your forgiveness was self-purification pilgrimage. As a matter of fact, once you reach this state of mind you will be oblivious to their interpretation.

 

Featured image by Toxic Treats

 

How To Move Away from Blame Game and Take responsibility – Positive Vibes Series

Yes it is hard to accept change, yes you have been wounded, yes you have been ridiculed, yes you have cried your heart out from unjust, yes you have been let down, and yes you have been taken for granted.

Now, it is time to sanitize your thoughts, yes it is time to stop blaming yourself or others. 

Dylan Bolivar

It is time to change perspective and elevate your thinking to a place where the field is clear and no-one’s shadow or actions loom out of your whining and complaining mind. A place where you take responsibility to learn and move forward. This new outlook is like stepping into a hot shower after a long torturous physical labour. Tension is relieved, the aches are gone and you feel refreshed. 

Be aware that you cannot avoid getting emotionally hurt, wronged or exposed to natural disasters and by building high fences you would not be protected from future unwarranted or unforeseen circumstances instigated by outside forces.

On top of that, bear in mind that your commitment to growing in life means tossing away the self-evaluation infested with blame. The emotion is so debilitating to a point that you may even not see the quicksand that is pulling you brutally downward where you will cease to exist.

Johnson Tsang

Being a captain in your life’s command center needs a gigantic shift of mindset. An intelligent mind snaps out of victimhood, realizing that it needs to adjust the sails when the direction of the wind cannot be changed.

Captian Kirk – Start Trek

Even when the world seems to be against you, instead of getting stuck and hanging on to validation, move away from self-pity, sit back, take personal responsibility, observe, learn and find solutions. Taking responsibility is not to orbit in the realm of self-blame, but to take the following steps:

  • Do not set the destructive standard for yourself – In a difficult situation, do not personalize the issue by self-disparagement since many things that happened to you is not completely your lapse or shortcomings. 
  • Do not freeze up, make sense of the circumstance by asking fact-finding questions.
  • Develop resilience – the capability to learn and recover is dynamic and not a personality trait.

The benefits of shifting perspectives are boundless. Even if a nasty outcome unfolds from your decision, you will no longer confront it with blaming games. Rather, you choose to improve your own behaviour, reactions and your decision making progress so that next time you lessen the chances of it happening again. 

Learning from the past should positively transform your mindset. You start de-cluttering and evolving to be strong and dynamic. Still, unfortunate events bound to happen, anger, and resentment will slither and cloud your judgment steering your emotions towards victimhood and blame.

Nevertheless, if you have done your homework and every day took the time to self-reflect and practice, particularly learning to let go of what you cannot control and cultivating a non-judgmental attitude, next time in face of adversity, you decide, react and re-define the situation, then and only then you can progress. Remember keeping your zest for life upbeat is to have self-compassion and courage to trade helplessness with self-growth. 

Lastly, every time fear, worry or challenging situations lurk for your darkest moments, recognize that mistakes are natural so instead of stifling your potential just get back on the horse.

“Use your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.” ~ Martin Seligman (2002, p. 263)

Emotions Are Data, Use Them Wisely! Positive Vibes Series

Do you feel every emotion that slithers, left, and right in your brain’s hemispheres? Do you understand them? Do you even recognize them?
Every day, you go through different emotions; sometimes, you are mindful and, other times, impulsive. You express your feelings based on expectations, history, your yearning desires, anxieties, or virtues. However, the issue arises when you are oblivious or ignore the specific emotion; hence your response to remedy the unsettling disposition or the activity you engage in is polluted and possibly destructive.

Emotion is data that you should identify, interpret, and use as an asset. 

Being sensitive towards your emotional response does not always indicate that you process your feelings accurately, nor toxically reacting confirms your assumptions. However, if you take the time to probe into your subconscious, astonishingly, you can manage your reactions by sifting through your beliefs. Most people do not dare to take on a task as it will take them to a sad place where they come to face the undesired parts of their psyche. Neglected emotions or merely having difficulty to label them is dispiriting and harmful. Since ignored emotions amount to negative interpretations that reinforce distressful behaviour patterns. A chain reaction that can be set right by untangling the mess in our minds.

Art by Mikoo Raima

So how to unravel your emotions?

  • Acknowledge that emotions are part of life; they are part of being human
  • Emotions do not last forever
  • Emotions teach you different aspects of yourself and things
  • Learn to describe and label your emotions
  • Keep a diary of your thoughts

How to navigate your emotions?

Albert Ellis, a rational-emotive psychologist, believed that our unrealistic interpretation of events creates an irrational belief system that will encourage negative emotional responses. Once you verify your negative emotions through journalling, re-examine your assumptions:

  • Make a conscious decision to identify and evaluate your mental representation of the world around you.
  • Re-consider your information processing based on the possibility that your way of thinking might be faulty.
  • Write your assumptions with the aid of the ABC Technique of Irrational Beliefs.

Draw three columns: A – B – C

A – Activating event: In this column, record the situation that leads to dysfunctional thinking or reaction

B – Belief: In the second column, write the negative thoughts

C – Consequences: The third column describes the emotions and the negative thoughts prompted by (A)

For instance: (A) You have failed an exam (B) You must have good grades, or you are worthless (C) You are depressed.

Once you discern the irrational belief, challenge the negative thoughts by reframing them. In the above example, the absurd notion leading to self-contempt caused by not getting a good grade should be re-interpreted by adopting a positive attitude to manage the negative emotion sensibly. Your focus should be on finding solutions to improve your grades, for instance, tweak your study strategy, improve on your time management, and many more productive ideas so that you consciously erase mistaken assumptions and misconceptions about yourself.

Art by Mikko Raima

Occasionally, we settle with our habitual beliefs and negative biases. If you do not manage your unfounded assumptions, your well-being will go through disruption and not in the right way.
The key to processing your emotions requires honesty with yourself. Emotional transparency, whether through self-help or reaching out to a therapist, will reveal your patterns and tendencies. With careful self-examination, the clear-sighted premises will serve you to process your emotions effectively.

Art by Mikko Raima

Quote – Determination

“I will persist until I succeed. I was not delivered unto this world in defeat, nor does failure course in my veins. I am not a sheep waiting to be prodded by my shepherd. I am a lion and I refuse to talk, walk or sleep with the sheep. I will hear not those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious. Let them join the sheep. The slaughterhouse of failure is not my destiny.” 
Nirmal Purja MBE
“Everything in life is possible armed only with a determined approach and a positive mindset.”
Nirmal Purja MBE
Until October 2019, the fastest-known time for climbing all 14 of the world’s 8000-meter mountains was eight years. Nirmal Purja MBE, a Nepalese mountaineer has climbed the world’s 14 highest peaks in the space of just six months. Thanks to his determination and mindset.  

Quote – Best Version of Yourself

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

Carl Jung

When you beat yourself up every time you fall short, when you are tired to the point that you don’t want to get out of bed, when you are scared to fail, when you worry and start overthinking, when you strive for perfection knowing well that it’s actually holding you back, take a deep breath, calm your nerves and know that you are doing great. It is not a weakness to feel helpless or frustrated in demanding situations and challenging moments. Live with it, accept it but do not let it define you. Take the time to rest, recharge, heal and continue your purpose in life which is to refine the best version of yourself.

 

 

Featured image by Karen Jerzyk